game laws, restrictions on the hunting or capture of wild game, whether bird, beast, or fish. After the Norman Conquest (1066), England enacted stringent game laws, known as the Forest Laws, which made hunting the sole privilege of the king and his nobles. Other European feudal states had similar laws. The English laws softened progressively after the 16th cent., and in the 19th cent. hunting was open to all who obtained a license. In the United States game laws have been directed at protecting wildlife from indiscriminate slaughter by trappers, hunters, and fishermen. The almost total extermination of the bison in the 19th cent. demonstrated the need for conservation laws, now in effect in nearly all states. Common protective devices include prohibitions against lake and river pollution; designation of a closed season during which game may not be taken; limitation of the age, size, or sex of the game hunted; the requirement of licenses, even in open season; and restrictions and prohibition of the sale or possession of game meat. Ironically, because license fees often fund state conservation agencies, conservationist efforts often depend upon persons whose hunting may contribute to the endangerment of some species.
See W. C. Robinson and E. G. Bolen, Wildlife Ecology and Management (2d ed. 1989).